Authors: Lynn Hunter
“This coupon is expired.”
“Oh no.” Lily took the slip of paper the young cashier
handed back to her. On closer inspection, the twenty-percent-off coupon for her
son’s long awaited toy gun, was indeed expired.
Lily was excited to come across the coupon in the stack of
ads her mom kept next to her laptop that she didn't even think to check the
date. How could she have been so careless? She even got Johnathan’s hopes
up. He talked happily all the way to the store about setting up little battle
scenes where he could shoot the foam bullets. He was such a good kid and
rarely asked for anything. His reward was to be disappointed, again.
“It's okay, Mom.” Johnathan took her hand pulling her from
her sad thoughts. “Maybe we'll find another coupon.” She looked down at his
sweet face. He gave her a little shrug and a small smile like it didn't bother
him. But it did matter because she plainly saw let down reflected in his blue
She squeezed his hand and turned back to the cashier, who seemed
bored with their interaction already.
“Don't you think the manager would honor it? It's only been
expired for one month.” Lily had to at least try. One month wasn't that big
of a deal was it?
The cashier gave her a look somewhere between pity and
irritation. “It's a
and a month expired.” Then pointedly looked
behind her to the line of people that had accumulated since she started
checking out. “Your total is sixty-two eighty-seven.”
Lily felt the heat climb her neck and fill her face. ”Um,
okay. I'll just put a few things back.” She reached for the package of
disposable razors. Shaving her legs could wait. It's not like she was wearing
shorts right now. The weather was turning cooler-.
“I got it, and ring this up too.” A deep voice rumbled from
somewhere above her head.
Lily jerked and spun around to come face to chest with the
owner of the voice. Her eyes traveled up past his wide chest, corded neck, up
to a stubborn chin covered with a closely trimmed black beard. Her gaze
briefly lingered on his firm lips before finally landing on bright blue eyes.
Their eyes caught and held. She had a strange paralyzing
feeling. She actually couldn't move until he leaned toward her. Not sure what
he intended, Lily pulled back and tugged her son to her side. The stranger
paused at her protective move. His eyes leaving hers to rest on Johnathan.
“That's a neat gun, little man.”
Lily gave herself a mental shake. “No. You don't need to do
that. I-I'm just going to put a few things back.” She turned back to the
cashier intending to do just that when the helpful clerk thrust the receipt in
her hand. The man behind her started walking away, leaving her no choice but
to move out of his way so he could walk past her. Instead, he grabbed up her
bags and headed to the door. Not knowing what else to do, she and Johnathan
“Where are you parked?” He asked once they were outside.
Lily was about to tell him she would take her own bags to
her car, thank you very much when her son piped up. “Down this row right here,”
he said, pointing to the row directly in front of them. “It's the blue car
right there. I have to remember cause Mom always forgets.”
“Um....” she began.
“I'll carry these for you.”
“No, it's okay. We've got it.” She reached for the bags.
Instead of handing them over he acted as though he didn't
hear her and strode around her to the car.
She twirled around. “Excuse me...” She started. Johnathan
dropped her hand and trotted alongside the deaf giant. “Johnathan-” Lily
reached for him and missed.
“My name's Johnathan.” He chirped. She really needed to
have another talk with him about
The boy never met a
stranger and would happily chat with anyone. Taking a deep breath, she picked
up her pace so she wouldn't be left behind.
Her eyes were drawn to the man’s wide shoulders and back.
His black t-shirt stretched tightly over the bulk of his muscles. Just because
she was so much shorter than him, of course, she noticed his jeans encased a
tight butt and long muscular legs.
“I'm Samson, but you can call me Sam.” He stopped at the
trunk of her car and turned to look at her expectantly. When she caught up with
them, she stopped and tipped her head back so she could see his face. He had
close-cropped black hair with a little gray on his temples. He had such a
serious look as if he didn’t find humor in much of anything. However, with the
sharp features and vivid blue eyes, he
attractive. The beard looked
natural on him.
“Keys,” he said.
“Huh?” She blinked in confusion.
“Keys to the trunk, Mom.” Johnathan laughed like she told a
joke with a hilarious punch line.
“Oh. Yes.” With her cheeks heating, she pulled out her
keys. Thankfully they hadn't made it all the way to the bottom of her purse.
Accidentally pulling out a tampon or panty liner would definitely be the icing
on her humiliation cake.
She found the correct key and took the few steps to the back
of the car. Samson never took his eyes off her but he stepped to the side to
give her enough room to open the trunk. Standing this close to him, she
noticed he smelled like clean, spicy soap and....motor oil?
“Can I hold my new gun on the way home?” Johnathan asked.
“I guess that would be okay.” Lily started rummaging through
the bags once Sam set them inside the trunk. She opened one bag and saw a dry
looking chocolate cake encased in a plastic container. “I didn't get this,” she
mumbled to herself.
“It's mine.” Samson reached into one of the bags and pulled
out the toy and handed it to her excited little boy. Then he took the bag that
contained his chocolate cake and said without emotion, “I have a sweet tooth.”
For some reason, the admission made her face heat for the
second time since they met. “Johnathan, tell Mr. Samson thank you and go sit
in the car.”
“Thanks for helping us in the store Mr. Samson. My Gramma
says when somebody does something nice for you then you should do something nice
back. My mom bakes the
cakes and cookies.” He said with pride.
“Is that right?” Samson's eyes went back to Lily and her
blush didn't even have time to recede before heating her face again.
“Yup. You should come-”
“Johnathan. It's getting late and we need to get home to
Gramma.” It was rude to interrupt but he didn't need to invite a total
stranger to their home.
“Okay. Well, thanks, Mr. Samson.” He said politely walking
to the door she held open for him.
“Enjoy the gun, Johnathan.”
“Thanks. Maybe you can come play with it with me
sometime.” Johnathan smiled and shrugged, feigning indifference. Lily's heart
constricted. He missed having a male figure around since her father died. She
ached for him too.
“Come on kiddo, in you go and buckle up.” She smoothed her
hand over his blond curls as he came closer.
“I know, Mom. I've been doing it for years now. Bye Mr.
“See you later.”
Lily shut the door containing her little chatterbox. Then
walked back to the back of the car.
“Oh... alright. Mr. Fuller. Thank you for helping in the
store. Do you have an address where I could mail you a check?”
Samson looked down at the young woman. She was young, too
young for him that was for sure. So why didn't he just say, “no problem” and
walk away? Because she was beautiful and sweet, that's why. He let his eyes
roam her shoulder-length curly, light blond hair. Nice. He took in her soft
brown eyes, heart shaped face and cute little pert nose with a sprinkle of
freckles. She had naturally full, pink lips but he couldn't tell if she was
wearing makeup since her face kept changing color. The thought made his lip
twitch but he didn’t want her to think he was laughing at her expense.
A cool breeze blew past them and she crossed her arms over
her chest as if chilled. He noticed that she just wore a thin white t-shirt,
worn jeans and flip-
flops. Pink ones with glitter shit
all over them. Definitely too young for him. Her toes were even painted a
soft pink. Everything about her looked soft and pink. He bet she was a sweet armful
How old was she? She didn't look old enough to have a son
Before he could stop himself, he blurted, “How old are you?”
She blinked at his question. “I don't think that's any of
“Are you married?” Another question fell out of his mouth.
What the hell was wrong with him?
Her doe eyes blinked at him again. She licked her lips and
opened her mouth as if to say something. He followed the movement with his
eyes. When she started to speak, he jerked his eyes back to meet hers.
“I want to pay you back Mr. Fuller. How will I get a check to
you?” She asked quietly, ignoring his question. She wasn't wearing a ring.
If there were a man at home, then her son wouldn't have asked him to come for a
visit. She also mentioned that they needed to get home to Gramma. Still, it
would be would be surprising if a woman like her wasn't in a relationship.
He reached into his back pocket and took a step closer to her.
She quickly dropped her arms and leaned her weight, slight as it was, against
the door that her son disappeared into. He paused and let his eyes drift down
her body. She was slim but had slightly rounded hips and full breasts.
He stepped back so he wouldn't frighten her. Slowly pulling
out his wallet he opened it and held up a business card.
“My business card.” He didn't extend it to her. He just held
her eyes and waited.
Relaxing slightly away from the door her gaze dropped to the
card in his fingers. She shifted her weight from foot to foot clenching and
unclenching her hands clearly debating whether to trust him or not. She licked
her lips again. He wanted to groan. She was so tempting. He wanted to touch
her but that was crazy since she was obviously scared of him. Rightly so he
supposed. He wasn't exactly handsome as the men she probably knew. He felt
immense satisfaction when she finally stepped forward and reached for the
card. Their fingers brushed and he felt his gut tighten. She all but snatched
the card away and stepped back against the car again.
“Okay then,” she said sounding out of breath and a bit
relieved. “I'll get that check to you right away.” She turned to the driver’s
“What's your name?” he asked.
Turning the card in her fingers she bit her bottom lip.
“I told you my name.” Sam reasoned.
“Lily.” Her voice getting quieter if that was possible.
“Lily.” It suited her. “Well Lily, instead of paying me
with a check could you pay me with sweets?” Realizing as soon as the words
came out of his mouth it was the wrong thing to say. The color went high in
her cheeks and she grabbed the door handle.
“No! I meant cupcakes!” She paused. “I usually get the guys
in my shop lunch and dessert on Fridays.” She turned her head slightly to look
at him. He held up the bag that contained his store-bought cake.
Sticking his wallet back in his pocket he continued. “I'm
sure they would love to have something fresh and homemade.” When she still
didn't say anything, he stepped forward. “I didn't mean to scare you.” He had
the urge to touch her hair. Soothe her. He let out a frustrated breath and
ran his fingers through his hair.
She slowly faced him. “Tomorrow is Friday.”
He was instantly calmed now that she was, at least, talking
to him. “Yeah, I know it's short notice. I have this cake for tomorrow. Do
you think you could bring cupcakes or cookies to the address on the card next
Friday around noon?”
She glanced up at him but didn't meet his eyes. “That still
doesn't make up for the amount of money you spent today.” She bit her lip in
indecision. “Actually, I have some cash in my purse. I don't know why I
didn't think about it before. Just let me-.” She started rummaging through
her purse still over her shoulder.
“No. With the delivery of two dozen cupcakes, it more than
makes up for it. It'll be a real treat. Honest.”
His heart gave a kick when she dimpled a cheek at him.
“Alright, Mr. Fuller. Noon next Friday.”
As she turned away again, he stopped her by cupping her
elbow. Her skin was like silk against his calloused fingers. Cold silk. He
needed to let her get into the car and get warm. He didn't let go even when
her body jerked and she tugged her arm. He stepped closer trying to block the
cold breeze. “My name is Sam, Lily.” He stared at the top of her head willing
her to say his name less formally.
“Sam,” she whispered after a long pause.
Satisfied he reached past her to open her door. “Drive
“Bye, Sam!” Johnathan hollered from the back seat.
“Bye, Bud, take care of your mom.”
“I always do!”
With a wave of his hand, he strode to his truck feeling
light in a way he hadn't felt in years. To hell with the age difference. He